The sagest advice you can get for attempting Cannes Lions live is to remember “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” And not just in terms of partying too hard (although there is plenty of that) but also in terms of attempting to see everything, meet everyone and learn all the things. One of the smartest strategies is to find yourself a comfortable seat in the ‘Grand Audi’ (no, it’s not a German sedan) and let the keynote sessions roll past you. On Wednesday, this approach would have netted you the wisdom of Courtney Love, Sheryl Sandberg, Jared Leto and Jeffrey Katzenberg, at a minimum.
No one ever accused me of being the smartest guy of the room, so I hopped madly from room to room, trying to catch particular sessions. It was exhausting, but it ultimately paid off when I lucked into a panel that included the creators of Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Doctor Who and (go fanboy!) Walking Dead. Yes, the topic was the dreaded ‘S’ word, but these guys are actual storytellers in the classic sense.
In a nutshell they advised us all to follow our passion, ignore the rabid fringe of the twittersphere, retain the cultural identity of your story’s location and don’t be seduced by Netflix-style hit-prediction algorithms. They also advised we use Robert McKee’s celebrated text on screenwriting structure “as lining in the bottom of the nearest parakeet cage.” But that’s another story.